The Belles of the North Sea

I WONDER if any of your readers can remember the heyday of the traditional pleasure boats that sailed the North Sea from resorts like Great Yarmouth, Bridlington and Scarborough during the 1950s and 1960s.

The Norwich Belle which sailed on a two hour cruise from Great Yarmouth to the seals on Scooby Sands was one of my favourites.

It was a fine looking boat with lime green and white hull and snow white wheel house from which music played from the boat’s PA system.

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Once out on Scooby Sands a diver in his golden diving suit and oxygen tank on his back walked out onto the deck from the saloon. His suit covered him from head to toe shone in the sun.

He climbed over the side and went under the water. It was obviously for show but at the time in my child’s mind, I wondered if he was checking the hull of the Norwich Belle. He re-emerged and climbed back on the boat and back into the saloon.

On one occasion I had a trip on the Norwich Belle, in the harbour all was sunny and calm but once out at sea the wind was blowing, thunder and lightning cracked, a storm had suddenly arisen taking the passengers by surprise.

The sea was rough, lifting the Norwich Belle almost vertically out of the sea, then it came crashing back down. My mum and dad were battling with the spay, rain and movement of the boat trying to put on our pac-a-macs to keep us dry!

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When we arrived back in the harbour it was sunny and calm again. The storm had taken its toll on some of the passengers — needless to say there was evidence of that from the vomit of the seasick passengers on deck.

Later in the 70s the hull was painted navy blue and white!

Other boats in Great Yarmouth included the Resolute, which was steam powered, and the Golden Galleon, an ex-Navy boat that was in service in World War Two.

One hundred and 30 of these boats sailed from the harbour along Breydon Water, but sadly there are no pleasure boats sailing from the harbour today!

Only a small beach boat sailing from  the beach near Brittani pier at Scooby sands for a half hour trip.

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Bridlington had five pleasure boats, starting with the smallest to the largest — Britannia, Bridlington Queen, Boys Own, Yorkshire Belle and Thornwick.

There was always the familiar cry, above the bustling noise of the harbour “Anymore for sailing?”, which came from the tickets booth as the crew of the boats tried to persuade the holidaymakers onto their boats for the trips across the bay to Flamborough Head and back.

My favourite was Bridlington Queen. I as a child loved an evening cruise on her to Flamborough Head listening to a man walking the decks playing an accordion and then coming round the passengers with his cap.

Then back on land off to Topham’s for a Horlicks before walking back to our caravan eating fish and chips.

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In 1967 Bridlington Queen made headlines as it sank on a rock near the harbour entrance. Only the back was submerged so it was towed back by the Yorkshire Belle. It was repainted and back in service, Boys Own became Flamborian as it underwent a change in appearance.

These days the Yorkshire Belle is the only pleasure boat left in Bridlington still running trips to Flamborough Head. It’s also famous for its three hour trips to the seabird colonies at Bempton cliffs.

There were three pleasure boats in Scarborough; Regal Lady, Coronia and Yorkshire Lady.

The largest was Coronia and when that left Scarborough for Bournemouth in the late 60s Yorkshire Lady took the name Coronia. Both Regal Lady and Coronia (ex-Yorkshire Lady) helped the evacuation of soldiers at Dunkirk.

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Coronia also left Scarborough for Gibraltar taking holidaymakers to see the dolphins, but after a few seasons though came back to Scarborough.

Unfortunately she is now in  Hartlepool and been converted into a harbour restaurant.

Only the Regal Lady remains in Scarborough, so now the Yorkshire Belle in Bridlington and Regal Lady in Scarborough are left to carry on the tradition of a sail on the North Sea!

P Dallinson, Hawthorne Avenue,  Rawmarsh